Looking for a holiday gift for a family member who loves to cook AND loves a good book? These 12 food memoirs weave together captivating personal stories with delicious details, from inspiring overseas culinary explorations to the shocking realities of restaurant kitchens.
This list includes both tried and true classics, like M.F.K Fisher’s 1943 memoir “The Gastronomical Me,” as well as newer titles from emerging writers and chefs, like Kwame Onwuachi’s “Notes from a Young Black Chef.” You’re sure to find something for even the pickiest of readers and eaters.
Related Reading: The Best New Cookbooks for Fall 2019
After marrying her husband Al in 1929, M.F.K. Fisher left her bland culinary upbringing in California and moved to Dijon, France. As the fifth out of the 27 books Fisher wrote in her lifetime, “The Gastronomical Me” captures her first memories of tasting French cooking and experiencing a life of pleasures. Buy Now
No food memoir list would be complete without an entry from celebrated author and television personality Julia Child. Child wasn’t always regarded as a culinary expert, and “My Life in France” details her struggles learning French, butting heads at the Cordon Bleu culinary school, and being rejected by numerous publishers while gaining the knowledge that made her an authority on French cuisine in America.Buy Now
This New York Times bestseller explores the darker and wilder sides of the restaurant industry as experienced by Bourdain, from financial tricks of restaurateurs to unsafe, shocking, and sometimes hilarious workplace behavior in the kitchen. “Kitchen Confidential” launched Bourdain’s career as a respected and celebrated voice on restaurant culture and is a must for any food lover.Buy Now
Fascinated by restaurant cooking, Bill Buford left his job as a writer at The New Yorker in his forties to dive head first into a crash course in cooking at three Michelin-starred Italian restaurant Babbo. “Heat” chronicles his experience as he follows his passion from New York City to Italy, learning to make pasta and slaughter pigs, recounted with pristine detail and humor. Buy Now
“Blood, Bones & Butter” begins in the kitchen of Gabrielle Hamilton’s youth in rural Pennsylvania and follows her to the small kitchen of her renowned 30-seat New York restaurant Prune. The New York Times bestseller and James Beard Award winner explores many themes including gender and relationships in the food industry, while also providing rich descriptions of the dishes that nourished her through many life transitions.Buy Now
Journalist Annia Ciezadlo moved to the Middle East in 2003, splitting her time between Beirut and Baghdad over the next six years with her husband while the region went through different cycles of violent wars and peaceful revolutions. Using food as a medium to communicate with new friends and family, Ciezadlo finds connection in culinary tradition and provides a glossary of family recipes for hungry readers. Buy Now
At the age of 28, Jessica Fechtor’s world came to a halt when an aneurysm burst in her brain, disrupting her sense of smell and robbing her of the sight in her left eye. Using cooking and baking as a form of recovery, “Stir” weaves together 27 recipes that helped Fechtor find herself again.Buy Now
This 2018 James Beard Award-winning book follows culinary historian Michael Twitty as he explores difficult topics of race, slavery, and appropriation in Southern cuisine through his own personal ancestry. Starting in colonial times, Twitty traces the foods grown and consumed by his ancestors to modern times, uncovering the fraught origins of soul food, barbecue, and other mainstays of the Southern table.Buy Now
2019 James Beard Award-winning Chef Kwame Onwuachi chronicles his journey from a childhood in the Bronx and Nigeria to the opening and subsequent closing of his fine dining restaurant in Washington D.C. Examining the topics of race, fame, and food, Onwuachi is a rising star in both the culinary and literary worlds.Buy Now
The iconic author and chef is well known for her previous memoirs including “Tender at the Bone” and her poetic language, often showcased in haikus on her Twitter page. Her latest book, “Save Me the Plums” chronicles her time as editor-in-chief of now shuttered Gourmet magazine.Buy Now
“Burn the Place” is the debut memoir from Iliana Regan, owner of Michelin-starred restaurant Elizabeth and recently-shuttered Japanese pub Kitsune in Chicago. Through fiercely vulnerable storytelling, Regan explores what it means to be a queer woman in an often unwelcoming world.
Adam Platt has been a food editor and restaurant critic for New York Magazine since 2000. In his highly anticipated debut memoir, Platt explains how he went from being the son of a traveling diplomat to what he calls “a professional glutton.” Aspirational reading, perhaps?Buy Now
See our best food and drink gift guide for even more ideas.
Header image courtesy of Amazon.